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Disquiet over Italy’s rising political star

    Beppe Grillo has been accused of making antisemitic statements (Photo: AP)
    Beppe Grillo has been accused of making antisemitic statements (Photo: AP)

    The Israeli government is planning to try to engage with members of the new power in Italian politics, the Five Star Movement (5SM), while trying to avoid its leader, Beppe Grillo.

    5SM was the surprise of the Italian elections three weeks ago when it succeeded in capturing 25.5 per cent of votes for the Chamber of Deputies and 23.8 per cent for the Senate.

    It does not describe itself as a party of the left or right but aims to serve as a movement for all Italians who are fed up with the country’s corrupt and dysfunctional political establishment.

    While many see the party as belonging to the radical left, a number of its new parliamentarians are thought to have been members of fascist groups, and it is co-operating with CasaPound, a movement of young Italians with openly neo-fascistic views.

    Mr Grillo, a former stand-up comedian, is not known to have political affiliations but the Jewish community in Italy is concerned by a number of seemingly antisemitic statements that he has made about “the Jews” controlling the media and the Hollywood film industry. He also said in interviews that Israel is “frightening.”

    Mr Grillo’s office did not return a request for a comment.

    Other members of the party have been quoted in recent weeks speaking approvingly of the policies of Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

    Despite the growing concern over Mr Grillo, neither the established Italian community nor the Israeli Foreign Minister has so far issued any statements regarding him and his party.

    There are estimated to be only 40,000 Jews in Italy and they are well integrated. For Israel, however, Italy is a major partner: the two co-operate closely on financial and security issues.

    The view within Israel’s Foreign Ministry is that they cannot afford to ignore a new party that was supported by a quarter of Italians. At the same time, they are trying to identify and engage with members of the party who have not been involved in neo-fascism or radical anti-Israel activity.

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